Gay Dad Life

Tommy, Mario and their son Michael

Tommy Heidenreich had given up on his dreams of becoming a father.

At one point in his thirties he had talked about having a baby with a female colleague, but the discussions fell through. And although Tommy had been in long-term same-sex relationships, the obstacles to starting a family seemed overwhelming.

"I was absolutely certain it would never happen to me," says Tommy, now 52. He didn’t know any gay couples with kids and didn’t see how it could happen.

But then he met his future husband, Mario Alaniz, and things began to change. Quickly.

Tommy was a year out of a 10-year-relationship. It was 2008, and he met Mario while both were training for the San Francisco marathon.

"He was running one direction, and I was running the other," Tommy says. The two started talking, exchanged numbers, and began dating. "I was just certain this could be my final husband. This was it."

A few weeks after they started dating, the two met Mario’s family at a birthday party. It was the first birthday party of the son of Mario’s nephew. At the time, Michael was in foster care – his father had been deported and his mother wasn’t able to take care of him.

"I immediately took a liking to this baby; he was just so cute," Tommy says now.

The first photo of Mario (left), Tommy (right) and Michael together at Michael’s first birthday party

A picture was taken of the three together. And after Mario moved in with Tommy a few months later, the Los Angeles-area couple were approved for weekly visitations. They started taking Michael in every Sunday and spending quality time together.

So when Michael became legally free for adoption, his social worker asked Tommy and Mario if they wanted to adopt him.

“We both said yes,” Tommy says now, even though they hadn’t discussed it before.” We didn't even think it was legally possible." They weren't even domestic partners at the time.

But it turned out that the obstacles were few. The couple’s background checks and clearances had been completed for visitation, so Michael was able to move in quickly, just a few months shy of his second birthday in 2009.

It was a miraculous turn of events for Tommy.

"I had always wanted to have a son my whole life,” he says now. "To me, it was the greatest thing in the whole world."

Family photo at Michael’s eighth birthday party, 2015

The two now had to figure out parenthood. Tommy leaped into the task, while Mario had already helped raised his two nieces and Michael's father.

"For him, he had gone through all the diaper changing, all the crying,” Tommy says. "It was a huge new thing for me."

And while Michael was a bit fussy at the beginning, after a couple of weeks he calmed down and seemed like the happiest boy in the whole world. With remarkable serendipity, a family had been created.

Over the next seven years, Michael grew and flourished. He’s now halfway through fourth grade and turned 9 in September.

"He's never been one to be afraid to go to school," Tommy says, "Most of the tears were shed by me."

Tommy and Mario officially tied the knot in 2013, three months after marriage equality became legal – for the second time – in California. After their church wedding, the couple invited 200 of their closest friends and family for the reception.

Mario and Tommy's wedding, 2013

And their son? "Michael was very excited for our wedding and he was the ring bearer in the ceremony," Tommy says.

And while there are multitudes of same-sex parents in Los Angeles proper, in the area where Tommy and Mario live, they don’t know of any. Not only haven’t they seen gay dads, they don’t know of any lesbian moms either.

But they have a birthday party for Michael every year with his friends – not to mention regular playdates – and there have never been any problems.

As for Michael’s background, they have always been totally honest about everything. Mario’s sister lives with them – she’s actually Michael’s grandmother. (Michael’s biological dad is Mario’s sister’s son.) Tommy praises her influence. "It really shows Michael how important family is to each other.”

The couple is looking to adopt again, once again going through the state’s licensing process. And once again, they’re being inspired by Michael.

"We're trying,” Tommy says. “It's all he ever asked for, a little brother.”

Show Comments ()
Transracial Families Series

This Transracial Family Relies on a 'Support Group' of African American Women

Puerto Rican dads Ferdinand and Manuel are raising a daughter of Jamaican descent — and love to find ways to celebrate their family's diversity

Our second feature in our transracial family series. Read the first one here.

Ferdinand Ortiz, 39, and his husband Manuel Gonzalez, 38, have been together for 7 years. In 2017, they became foster dads when they brought their daughter, Mia Valentina, home from the hospital. She was just three days old at the time. On December 13, 2018, her adoption was finalized.

Mia is of Jamaican and African American heritage, and her dads are both Puerto Rican. When Manuel and Ferdinand began their parenting journey through the foster care system, they received specific training on how to be the parents of a child whose race and culture was different from their own. "We learned that it's important to celebrate our child's culture and surround ourselves with people who can help her be proud of her culture." However, as helpful as this training was, the dads agreed that it would've been beneficial to hear from other transracial families and the type of challenges that they faced.

Keep reading... Show less
Personal Essays by Gay Dads

How the Shut Down Opened Me Up to Being a Better Dad

David Blacker's dad used to tell him to 'stop and smell the roses' — the shut down has led him to finally take the advice

"Stop and smell the roses." It was the thing my dad always said to me when I was growing up. But like many know-it-all kids, I didn't listen. I was determined to keep my eye on the prize. Whether it was getting good grades in school, getting my work published, scoring the next big promotion, buying a house or starting a family. For me, there was no such thing as resting on my laurels. It has always been about what's next and mapping out the exact course of action to get me there.

Then Covid.

Ten weeks ago, I — along with the rest of the world — was ordered to shelter-in-place... to stop thinking about what's next, and instead, focus on the here and the now. In many ways, the shut down made me shut off everything I thought I knew about being content and living a productive life. And so, for the first time in my 41 years, I have literally been forced to stop and smell the roses. The question is, would I like the way they smell?

Keep reading... Show less
Transracial Families Series

How This Transracial Family Creates a 'Safe Space' to Talk About Their Differences

Kevin and David know they can never understand what it's like growing up as a young black girl — but they strive to create a 'safe space' for their daughters to talk about the experience

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of ongoing posts exploring issues related to transracial families headed by gay, bi and trans men. Interested in being featured as part of the series? Email us at

Is adopting a child whose race and culture is different from your own something that us queer dads need to talk about? Share our experiences? Learn from others? We've been hearing from our community, and the answer has been a resounding, "yes."

With over one-fifth (21.4%) of same-sex couples raising adopted children in the United States today (compared to 3% of different-sex couples), it's highly likely, at the very least, that those families are transcultural. According to April Dinwoodie, Chief Executive of The Donaldson Adoption Institute, Inc., all adoptive families are transcultural. "All, in my opinion, adoptions are transcultural because there are no two families' culture that is exactly the same, even if you went as far as to get very specific about the family of origin and the family of experience and almost make it cookie-cutter … no two families operate the same."

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Movie Night: My Favorite Family Tradition

As his sons have gotten older, the movies have morphed away from cartoons and towards things blowing up — but movie night remains his favorite family tradition.

Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about his life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

Of all of our traditions and rituals, probably the most consistent and longest-lasting one was movie night. Sure, we read the heck out of Harry Potter. But our capacity for watching Harry Potter? We're talking Quidditch World Cup here, folks.

In its early version, movie night looked like this: During the week, I would order a movie and a cartoon from Netflix—back when "Netflix" meant "mail." On Saturday night—and I mean, faithfully, every Saturday night—we would order a pepperoni pizza (which Mark faithfully took the meat off of—I'll get to food later) for delivery and then sit and watch our cartoon and movies while eating. The kids had a say in the movie, but I got to pick the cartoon. They watched enough of their own cartoons on the regular, and besides, this gave me a great opportunity to introduce them to the wonders of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Josie and the Pussycats.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Happy Mother's Day From Gays With Kids!

To all of the women who have supported the journey of gay, bi and trans men towards fatherhood — thank you, and happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day can be complicated holiday for many gay, bi and trans dads and their kids. Choosing how, when — or even if — to celebrate the day is a uniquely personal decision. But no matter how we've become dads, women have helped us achieve our dreams of fatherhood. And for that reason, we've loved celebrating all of the women who have supported our journeys to fatherhood, in ways big and small, over the years. Check out some of our favorite photos, essays, articles and more below!

Keep reading... Show less
Become a Gay Dad

Webinar Series: Becoming a Dad During a Pandemic

Gays With Kids launches a webinar series with surrogacy, adoption and foster care experts — to explore family planning options for gay, bi and trans men in the age of the coronavirus.

Gay, bi or trans and considering building or growing your family? Gays With Kids is offering FREE webinars led by industry experts in surrogacy, adoption and foster care to give you up-to-date insight on how the coronavirus affects family building. There will be lots of time for audience Q&A, so come prepared for this webinar with your specific questions on starting or continuing your surrogacy journey.

Register via the links below!


Thinking About Becoming A Dad? Explore Your Options in our Surrogacy Webinar Series.

Come discuss: surrogates, egg Donation, IVF, and embryo creation with leading surrogacy and fertility experts.

Please register for just one of the following 3 surrogacy webinars

Monday, May 4, 2020
4:00-5:00pm PT / 7:00-8:00pm ET

  • Dr. Guy Ringler, California Fertility Partners
  • Victoria Ferrara, Worldwide Surrogacy
Register here (pre-registration required)
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
4:00-5:00pm PT / 7:00-8:00pm ET
  • Dr. Jerald S. Goldstein, Fertility Specialists of Texas
  • Sam Hyde, Circle Surrogacy
Register here (pre-registration required)
Friday, May 8, 2020
12:00-1:00pm PT / 3:00-4:00pm ET
  • Dr. Mark Leondires, Reproductive Medical Associates of CT
  • Kristin Hanson, Simple Surrogacy

Register here (pre-registration required)


Thinking About Becoming A Dad? Explore Your Options in our Adoption Webinar Series.

Come discuss: matching, placements, home studies and finalizations with leading experts in adoption and foster care.

Please register for just one of the following 2 adoption / foster webinars
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
3:00-4:00pm PT / 6:00-7:00pm ET

  • Monica Baker, Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children
  • Rita Soronen, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
  • Molly Rampe Thomas, Choice Network
Register here (pre-registration required)

Friday, May 15, 2020
10:00-11:00am PT / 1:00-2:00pm ET

  • Monica Baker, Spence-Chapin Services to Families & Children
  • Rita Soronen, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
  • Molly Rampe Thomas, Choice Network
Register here (pre-registration required)

Gay Dad Life

Top Memes From Parents Sheltered in Place with Kids

Perhaps the ONLY good thing to come out of the coronavirus crisis... hilarious parenting memes.

Very, very few good things have come about since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, but one of the tiny silver linings — and one of the only ways most of us parents sheltering at home with our kids are staying sane — is this: parenting memes.

We've rounded up our favorites below. (If you know who originated some of these, please let us know so we can give credit!)


Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse